Pilots’ union Balpa is calling for British Airways to ask for a government bailout after the airline announced it would make 12,000 staff redundant.
BA’s parent company IAG said it needed to impose a “restructuring and redundancy programme” until demand for air travel returns to pre-crisis levels.
The airline sent out a letter to staff in March warning that job losses could be on the cards, and had already furloughed around 23,000 staff as it battled with the impact of planes being grounded due to the coronavirus.
In a statement, IAG said: “The proposals remain subject to consultation, but it is likely that they will affect most of British Airways’ employees and may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 of them.”
BA chief executive Alex Cruz has also sent a further letter to staff, which said: “In the last few weeks, the outlook for the aviation industry has worsened further and we must take action now. We are a strong, well-managed business that has faced into, and overcome, many crises in our hundred-year history.
“We must overcome this crisis ourselves, too. There is no government bailout standing by for BA and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely… We will see some airlines go out of business.”
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said that the union “does not accept that a case has been made for these job losses and we will be fighting to save every single one”.
He added: “This has come as a bolt out of the blue from an airline that said it was wealthy enough to weather the Covid storm and declined any government support.”
Other airlines have had to take measures such as placing staff on leave or reducing pay. Qantas has put 20,000 staff on leave, while American Airlines has asked around 4,800 pilots to take short-term leave on reduced pay, with 700 taking early retirement.
IAG said it believed it would take several years for air travel to return to pre-virus levels.
Strutton told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “Why in the UK is our aviation industry getting hammered? Other countries are supporting theirs.
“I’d like the chancellor to keep his promise of a bespoke package to help the aviation industry. We haven’t seen it yet.”